A passenger aboard a South Korean flight opened an emergency door moments before the plane landed — sparking caught-on-video chaos and panic among the 194 passengers in the wind-swept cabin.
The Asiana Airlines Airbus A321 was about to land in Daegu after a flight from the southern island of Jeju on Friday when the passenger pulled the emergency exit handle at an altitude of about 700 feet, officials said.
Some of the other passengers tried to prevent the person from reaching the door but it partially opened, sending air whipping throughout the cabin as terrified fliers gripped their armrests.
Among the 194 passengers onboard were several teenage athletes who were on their way to a weekend sporting event in Ulsan.
At least a dozen people suffered minor injuries in the harrowing incident before the plane landed safely, according to the Transportation Ministry.
Several showed symptoms of breathing difficulty and were taken to a local hospital, Yonhap reported.
“It was chaos with people close to the door appearing to faint one by one and flight attendants calling out for doctors on board through broadcasting,” a passenger told the local news outlet.
“I thought the plane was blowing up. I thought I was going to die like this,” the 44-year-old added.
One teen’s mother told the news outlet: “Children quivered and cried in panic. Those sitting near the exit must have been shocked the most.”
The suspect, identified only as a man in his 30s, was arrested at Daegu International Airport and confessed to opening the door, but would not say why he did it, CNN reported.
Witnesses told local media that the unhinged passenger also tried to jump out of the plane.
“It is difficult to have a normal conversation with him,” an official said, according to the BBC. “We will investigate the motive of the crime and punish him.”
Geoffrey Thomas, an aviation expert with Airline Ratings, described the incident as “very bizarre.”
“Technically, it’s not possible to open those doors in flight,” he told CNN.
He said winds of about 170 mph would have been passing the plane when the door was opened.
“It seems implausible that the door could be opened in the first place and then against the airstream technically impossible, but somehow or another it has happened,” Thomas added.
The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry said an aviation safety official would check whether there was an abnormality in the plane’s maintenance, CNN reported.
With Post wires
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